Sweet Sixteen: A Parent's Nightmare


     So, Mom and Dad, your baby is all grown up and ready to start driving. It's the double-edged sword of parenthood. We want to give them responsibility but we're afraid of their ability to handle it.

     On the one hand, we think of all the time it will save us taking them all over creation. On the other, we remember every bonehead decision they've made for the past sixteen or so years. 

     It's daunting to give them a 3,000 pound hammer and tell them to have it. We dread the thought of the phone call in the middle of the night. My mom was the unfortunate recipient of one of those calls. I wasn't the driver, but I was riding with a young driver who made just one mistake.

     When it comes to cars and new drivers, it takes just one mistake to change lives, or even end them. Thank the Lord we both recovered and are still alive today. It wasn't fun at the time, but it gave me a great lesson for my children and for my customers and their children when they begin driving. Below I'll list some tidbits to help you as you begin the journey with your teen driver.

1. Remember that everyone has the potential to make mistakes. Expecting perfection from your teen is unrealistic and will make a stress-filled time more stressful.

2. Teach your child to drive. Don't rely on driver training courses to do it for you. If you've been driving for 15 or 20 years or more, you have the goods to teach them. Plus, it can be a bonding time for you.

3. If you don't feel qualified to teach them, ask a family member or family friend that you trust. I know mom's tend to be overly anxious, and rightfully so. If you just don't want to, then don't. A teen that dreads driving will not be fun to work with. And there seems to be a trend of teenagers who are putting off obtaining their license, which on some level, can be putting off growing up.

4. Use a third party like a police officer or insurance agent to scare the snot out of them. Sometimes we can convey the seriousness of the privilege in a way that backs up your own threats and gives you a scapegoat for the bag guy. We don't mind at all. 

5. Continue to teach them even after they begin driving on their own. Take on the role of coach and head cheerleader to encourage them when they do well and direct them when they stumble. 

6. Finally, in everything you do, whether it be teaching or coaching, cheering or correcting, do it with love. They get beat up enough by the world. We as parents should always be a safe harbour, a place of refuge when they need somewhere to go. And they will always need somewhere to go.

     One final thought. I always suggest that parents have a "beater" car for their teen to learn on. It softens the blow if they do put a scratch or ding on it. And if you don't have to carry full coverage on the vehicle they are driving, it will save you a ton of money. Trust the insurance guy, because he sees the sad faces of parents getting their first bill after Bobby or Susie has been added to the policy:- (

Zachary Brady